Peter Magee

From the Biographical Review, Volume XXXIII, located at the Durham Center Museum.
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin


Peter Magee, a well-known shipbuilder of Athens, N. Y., was born on November 23, 1838, in Baltimore, Md., where his parents, John and Anna (Cahill) Magee, settled when they emigrated to this country from Ireland. He is the only one now living of a family of eight children. Both father and mother were members of the Catholic church. The mother died at the age of seventy-one.

Mr. Magee was reared in Baltimore, and in his childhood attended a parochial school in the city. When he was only thirteen years old, his father died and he had to begin to assist his widowed mother. He learned the ship-builder’s trade, serving a four years’ apprenticeship with John J. Abraham, who was reckoned one of the best ship-builders in that region. When he had completed his period of apprenticeship, he began working for Mr. Abraham as a journeyman, and in a short time was receiving higher wages than any other man in the yard. After this he spent one year in Mound City, Ill.; and, when he returned, he again engaged with Mr. Abraham. Leaving Baltimore a second time and going to New York City, he worked a while for Theodore Roosevelt, now Governor of the State, several months for William H. Webb, and then put up a vessel for Van Duzen Brothers. He next entered the service of the United States as a mechanic at Port Royal, and there remained two years and one month. Upon leaving Port Royal he came to New York and took a contract for work at the foot of Sixteenth Street, being then only twenty-three years of age. After executing this to the satisfaction of all concerned, he went to work for Simonson, the ship-builder, this being during the eight-hour strike.

Subsequently he was employed in Mr. J. R. Baldwin’s yard at New Baltimore, and from that place he came to Athens and started business for himself. He was first in company with Mr. Matthias Van Loan in 1871, and this partnership continued for twenty years, the firm being known as Van Loan & Magee. Since 1888 Mr. Magee has been without a partner. During the time he has been in the yard here he has built over two hundred vessels, and had rebuilt many more. He is one of the best known and most reputable ship-builders in this region. His son Joseph acts as his foreman.

Mr. Magee was married in 1871 to Mary J. McCabe, who was born in Greene County. She has borne him three children: Joseph, above mentioned; Mary; and Hannah. All the children have received a public-school education. The daughters reside with their parents. Joseph married May Brennan.

Mr. Magee is a Democrat in politics, and for many years has been member of town and county committee. He has attended many conventions as delegate. In 1885 he was elected Sheriff of the county, and for the three succeeding years he efficiently filled that office. He has been a member of the School Board for thirty years, and for the same length of time a Trustee of the village.

Mr. Magee’s home is one of the finest in Athens. He puts a large amount of money in circulation in the town every week when he pays off his force of workmen. He and his family attend the Catholic church. They are actively interested in all efforts to promote the welfare of the community.


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